The Spectator

Barometer | 12 January 2017

Also in our Barometer column: one-hit wonders, the price of luxury box, and the size of an iceberg

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A Morris dancing troupe with blacked-up faces had to abandon its performance in a Birmingham shopping centre after being heckled and accused of racism.
— There are several explanations for the tradition of Border Morris groups blackening their faces, but it was certainly established by 1509, when a Shrovetide banquet for ambassadors featured torch-bearers with blackened faces.
— Some believe it to have derived from Spain and Portugal, where dancers blacked up as Moors. Others believe that it derives from the practice of poachers blackening up to conceal themselves in darkness.
— Blacking up is punished more mildly now than in the 18th century: a 1723 anti-poaching law made it a capital offence to be caught in a forest with a blackened face.

One-hit wondering

Peter Sarstedt, who died aged 75, was often called a ‘one-hit wonder’ thanks to the success of his 1969 song ‘Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?’ How unusual is it for a pop singer just to have one hit?
— Of 1,318 No. 1s since 1954, 64 were by artists never seen in the singles chart again.
— Peter Sarstedt, however, doesn’t count because his little-remembered follow-up, ‘Frozen Orange Juice’, reached number 10.
— The most remarkable on the list is Norman Greenbaum, who had a No. 1 in 1970 with ‘Spirit in the Sky’. He never had another hit, but the song went to No. 1 twice more — each time for acts who themselves never had another hit.

Box numbers

A 12-seater box is for sale at the Royal Albert Hall for £2.5m, and with an annual service charge of £14,000.
— Box hire costs £4,059 a performance.
— Over the next two months, if you and 11 guests sat through 58 performances of Cirque du Soleil and 10 of the comedian Russell Howard, you could consume £276,000 worth of culture.

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